The Morning After: Seahawks Roll Into Bye Week with 31-7
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The simple story of the Seahawks resounding victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars is that the Jaguars are an awful football team. That is true. The more interesting story is that the Seahawks have been pretty darn bad themselves this season and were still missing their starting quarterback, starting running back, and top pick receiver. This was a game where every fan and pundit will look at it and dismiss it as the Seahawks doing what any team should do against the Jags. The truth is those same fans and pundits would have told you before the game they wouldn’t have been shocked if the Seahawks lost. Almost any way you slice it, this was the Seahawks best overall performance since the first week of the season.
Geno Smith turned in one of the best starts of his career. He played so well that it is hard to say the score would have been much different had Russell Wilson been out there. His passes were out quickly and were on target. He showed deft touch in looping balls over defenders and willingness to give his receivers a chance to make a play. Had he played half this well against the Steelers, Seattle probably wins that game.
DK Metcalf looked like a big receiver, which is maddeningly rare. Even Metcalf made mention in his postgame press conference that he does not get the chance to have the ball thrown up to him in the red zone. Given that shot, he made the most of it with one of the great catches of the year and one of the prettiest of his young career.
Metcalf has struggled to demonstrate reliable hands or the ability to go up and get the ball when tightly covered. He did both on his first touchdown. Throughout the game he was demonstrating better hands than we have seen from him. They were all “hands” catches instead of letting the ball get to his body. I had somewhat given up on him improving in that area, but this game will stick in my head for a while as an example of his potential.
Tyler Lockett benefitted more than anyone from Smith’s passing revival. Lockett was getting open repeatedly and Smith was finding him. Lockett is having a good year that could have been a great one if his quarterbacks had found him more often. He had at least two touchdowns and over 100 yards in the Rams game alone that he was robbed because his QB did not make the necessary throw.
Part of the reason the passing game was able to emerge was a better showing by the offensive line. It eventually deteriorated, but they started out giving Smith ample time to throw. Ethan Pocic was still a turnstile as a pass blocker, making Dawaune Smoot look like Aaron Donald, but perhaps his ability to make line calls helped get the protection better set.
We do not know if Wilson will be ready to return after the bye week, but we know he will want to. Should he need more time on the shelf, Smith gave some reason to believe this offense can put up more than 10 points in future games.
Seattle continued a strong run on the defensive side of the ball, shutting the Jags out until their final offensive play with under two minutes to play.
The Seahawks run defense has quietly become very good. Trevor Lawrence really needed help from the run game and Seattle shut it down. Over the last four games, including against the Rams, the Seahawks defense ranks 2nd in the NFL in opponent yards per rushing attempt at 3.79 yards per carry. This, after being the league’s worst rush defense before that span.
It is more than run defense, though. Over that same four games, Seattle ranks 10th in opponent passer rating, 3rd in third down conversion rate, 8th in opponent yards per play, and 5th in opponent points per game.
Don’t look now, but Seattle’s defense ranks 11th in points allowed for the full year. Few people would guess Seattle would be knocking on the door of a top ten defense in any ranking, let alone the most important one.
Would it surprise you to know the Seahawks held the Rams to their second lowest point total on the season, and that includes a late gimme field goal after a Smith interception?
I can already hear people saying, “Let’s wait until we see them play the Packers and the Cardinals.” That’s just not how it work. Great pass rushers get the majority of their sacks against inferior pass blockers. Great defenses put up their best numbers against inferior offenses. No matter how bad the Jaguars are, and they are baaaad, you cannot do much better than holding a team to zero points for 58 minutes. That is good defense, period.
The Seahawks held what might be the best offense in the NFL to 3 points in the first half a few weeks back. That happened. The Packers and Cardinals may put up a lot of points against the Seahawks. They are 7-1 teams with MVP level quarterbacks.
What we can look for is the degree of resistance the Seahawks defense offers. What we saw earlier in the year was a defense that could not stop the bleeding once an opponent started scoring. They are almost certain to give up 25+ points against these offenses as almost every other team does, but can they make it difficult? Can they continue their almost bizarre run of 3rd down effectiveness?
We saw what resembled a healthy pass rush in this game for the first time since the first week. It may be no coincidence that the two best games this team has played was when they found a way to pressure the passer. Almost everyone on the defense helped to create pressure.
The sack numbers do not show it, but the pressure numbers should. I would bet this was a season high in pass pressures by the Seahawks defense.
Coverage has clearly improved as well. Life after Tre Flowers has been markedly better. DJ Reed has been an above average corner like we had hoped going into this year. Tre Brown has been good, and I continue to think Sidney Jones has been better than people give him credit for. He leads all Seahawk corners in pass breakups with 4 in just 5 games.
The much-maligned Jamal Adams played another solid game. He is not flashing in the way many of us had hoped, but he is not the disaster people would have you believe. What I see is a player adjusting to how he is being used and refining his craft. He is looking more and more comfortable, which should lead to more impact plays.
Quandre Diggs had a great game, and has been his normal solid self this season.
Even Carlos Dunlap showed up. He has started to make his presence felt more the past couple of weeks which has me wondering if that toe injury early in the year was hindering him. Maybe the bye week will be a chance for him to fully heal and become the pass rusher the team needs him to be.
Seattle sits at 3-5, far from what they would have wanted at this stage, but not out of the playoff picture entirely. The next two games will reveal much about the rest of the season. The trade deadline is tomorrow and the Seahawks are unlikely to be buyers or sellers outside of perhaps some opportunistic moves should someone come calling for L.J. Collier or Rashaad Penny.
There is not a lot to be taken from this game except to appreciate that the defense has found their footing and Smith is capable of better play than we had witnessed the past two weeks. A win is nice, no matter the asterisks.